Precipitated by separate personal tragedies, two families flee their rural livings to share a "great continent of a house", Cloudstreet, in the Perth suburb of West Leederville. The two families are contrasts to each other; the Lambs find meaning in industry and in God’s grace; the Pickles, in luck. The Lambs’ God is a maker of miracles; the Pickles’ God is the ‘Shifty Shadow’ of fate. Though initially resistant to each other, their search and journey for meaning in life concludes with the uniting of the two families with many characters citing this as the most important aspect of their lives. As a novel, Cloudstreet has a circular structure, opening and ending with a shared celebratory family picnic - a joyous occasion which, ironically, is also the scene of Fish’s long sought-after death or return to the water. The novel is narrated effectively by flashback "in the seconds it takes to die" by Fish Lamb, or the 'spiritual' omniscient Fish Lamb, free of his restricting retarded state. As such the novel gives a voice to social minorities, the Australian working class and the disabled. (However, its treatment of Fish Lamb as somebody incomplete in his physical existence may also be interpreted as demeaning towards the intellectually disabled, depending on the reading position adopted.)
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